No sugar in my cafe?

Looking for feedback from other cafe owners or patrons. Has anyone tried, or been to a cafe, that does not have sugar as a condiment (or even any syrups)? The concept is to help folks learn/enjoy the actual taste of coffee and not the sugar. Thoughts?

Hmm, although I totally agree with you on principle, do you think that such a policy might read as condescending? Most of my customers seem to prefer sweetened coffee drinks.


Perhaps you could write on a blackboard something along the lines of ‘Pro Tip: drinking our coffee black will help you better experience the unique quality of each batch’.

That’s a pretty cool idea. I know just telling people “we don’t have sugar” makes one sound jerk-ish.

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Handsome Coffee in LA way back in the day before Blue Bottle bought them did no sugar. They actually had a bunch of negative reviews because of it, but it was great to see a shop actually put their values forward.


I like Whiskey. I like Old Fashioneds. If I walked into a bar that didn’t have syrup because of their “values”, I’d say, good luck competing in the marketplace.


It is your place you can do as you wish - my wife likes a bit of honey in her drinks. Many folks like a little extra sweetness it doesn’t make them wrong. I think the “Pro Tip” idea is great. Don’t force people to like it your way BUT if you do no worries either. But I presume if you have to ask then you probably shouldn’t remove it.

Is your target market coffee nerds or the rest of us normal people. Are you in business to provide great customer service to people while sharing great coffee of is your intent to alienate people. People usually will try new things, but on their timeline. Welcome all coffee lovers. Just because someone likes sugar, milk… doesn’t mean they are wrong and should be considered with the unwashed masses.

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I agree with most of the above, getting rid of sugar entirely is likely to be problematic. I’ve found that a lot of people will just dump sugar in their specialty coffee not realizing it tastes way better black than Dunkin or Starbucks does so they never even try it black. My usual line is “I would suggest trying it black before adding anything to it. Our coffee is roasted on the lighter side, so you might not need as much cream and sugar as you usually use.” Even if they still add stuff to it at that point they might be more cognizant of what they are actually drinking and might put less sugar in next time.


This is funny because many years ago when I was in HS, I was always drinking coffee with lots of sugar and drinking those 3 in 1 instant coffee from Nestle…now that I have fully evolved into drinking specialty coffee, adding sugar is like a Sin for me. However, I personally wouldn’t agree adding sugar, but for the sake of customers it is a must. Coffee shops in Thailand mostly just give a bag of sugar to the customers and leave it to us to add it or not…but here’s the thing, if people don’t really care or don’t bother to realize the value of organic specialty coffee why serve it to them since they’ll only dump sugar and milk into it? Might as well just fill their cups up with cheap coffee and charge it cheaper compare to the actual good stuff…I guess this is why its important for Barista’s today to share their knowledge of specialty coffee which makes it a challenge because not only do they have to make the beverage but also interact with customers.

What’s more, we also have to do it in a way which does offend them through expressing our judgement on their preferences or sensibilities. In these conversations, we need to walk the narrow line between discussion and pedantry.

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Cat and cloud coffee podcast is an excellent podcast. I listen to every week. One podcast that Chris Baca did was called “converting consumers to specialty.” In the podcast Baca says they had a guest come in for like a couple of years that got the largest drip coffee he could get everyday and he would dump cream and sugar into it. One day he just asked Baca what the deal with the espresso is. He explained it to him and now this guy, that dumped cream and sugar in his coffee, has a espresso machine at his house. On one of Baca’s blogs he goes to this guys house and the guy drinks 4 or 5 espresso’s a day. So, my opinion on this is that we shouldn’t judge people for using cream and sugar. If they want to become a coffee nerd and drink black coffee they will probably ask about it and get into it themselves. If they don’t you have a regular customer that drinks your coffee and doesn’t feel judged for how they drink their coffee.

Its a dream you can have, but its commercially a bad decision. I toyed with ideas such as not serving decaf and any limitations you put on your business will limit its success. For example if a group of 4 comes in and just one of them wants sugar, or decaf - it can ruin the entire experience for the whole group…

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Why should anyone ever feel judged for their taste preference, anyway? Why would anyone judge what someone finds tasty? I don’t like mayo on a sandwich but don’t judge others who do. I think steak is best rare but don’t judge people who think medium is better. Some people think whiskey should be peaty, others prefer a strong rye. The idea that anything should taste a certain way is absurd and not offering sugar to people who enjoy a sweet tasting drink is nothing but pretentious.


@JDR preach! it would lunacy to ban salt and pepper from a restaurant because the chef thinks everything is perfectly seasoned


Sounds like a cool idea, BUT I would not do it. I would however tell my barista’s to tell the customers to try the coffee without sweeteners but still have them available for those who don’t want to.

It’s better to allow an option then to implement a personal belief. The biggest risk you take is of losing customers and as you and every other cafe owner knows that customers are the life line of any business.

If you’re really into this idea then just have it as an option and see what the reaction is.

I think it would be fun and more inclusive if you put out a small tray with an ounce of drip coffee that’s black. People can try the coffee black and many might find they like the flavour without the judgement.

I think that the best thing you can do is actively engage your customers and help them find things that they may like better than what they are used to elsewhere. Also to introduce people to craft coffee and help them to get over the stereotype that coffee is just bitter and sour and nasty needing to be hidden by the sugar and other things. A well dialed shot of espresso, or pour over of a good roast can be as delightful to enjoy black as a piece of good chocolate or just with some velvety creamy milk. Most people really don’t get that and we can’t expect them to considering the average coffee you encounter out in the world.

I think from my experience some people just really don’t like the taste unless it’s complimented with sweetness or other flavors.

There is an awesome roaster here locally called Publik Coffee and they have dealt with this really well I think by offering the sweeteners to those that want it but only serving basic flavored drinks like mochas and then coming up with seasonal drinks usually one hot latte, tea, and cold tea that they change around but leverage house made simple syrups and bitters from local places/etc. so stuff that you just really wouldn’t expect to find or think of, things reminiscent more of a bar menu than a coffee shop. I am a black coffee or just milk latte kind of guy with the very occasional unsweetened mocha but I usually try most of their seasonal drinks at least once. One was even spicy once with bitters, it was a delight actually.

Ultimately it’s up to you what you want to stand on but I agree with everyone here that you’ll likely limit yourself and turn people off by not offering anything but black coffee. That being said I believe that there are creative ways to exprsss yourself and make those people happy without lining up a bunch of flavor syrup pumps and thinking of cliche names for candy bar drink combos. I’m all for not conforming to the normal expectation because it does devalue your efforts. So find a way to give those people something enjoyable and palatable without feeling like you sold out.

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I have heard about it. I think this kind of cafe is intresting however very inconvenient idea. There is a lot of people, who dont drink coffee without sugar. Imagine how group of friends want to go to your cafe but one of them drink coffee with sugar and they truly wont go there and choose another spot… But if you dont try you wont gonna know if it is going to work.

I once did that, up to 1 year 7 months without sugar in my cafe, before the customer ordered coffee I always apologized to the customer that there is no sugar in our cafe, it doesn’t mean I don’t buy sugar, with jokes I say because of you it’s sweet for using sugar again, hehehehe, and the customer is willing to make coffee with the V60 medium roast method, but the new customer I still say bitterly is the coffee hehehe, I explained a little that drinking healthy coffee is sugarless because sugar and coffee are mixed fermentation and that sometimes makes flatulence there are some customers back to try again there are also those who do not return hehehe even some cumumer are used to enjoying coffee without sugar. Thank you for writing a little about my cafe. but now I have added variants namely chocolate and green tea.